Tag Archives: judicial nominations

Justice Delayed and Denied

GavelThe U.S. Constitution is clear on the subject, there will be the establishment of federal courts, and the 7th Amendment guarantees our access to those courts should we decide to bring a suit the value of which is over $20.00 — big money back in 1789.  Further, the Constitution assumes that these courts will function equitably, with no advantage given to one side or the other.  The 6th Amendment guarantees a “speedy and public trial” in criminal cases, and we can safely assume the founders intended to avoid protracted entanglement in our civil proceedings.   Our Republican contingent in the U.S. Congress has other ideas.

“Backed by House colleagues and GOP attorneys general from around the country, Senate Republican leaders are whipping opposition to advancing the nomination of Patricia Millett — or anyone else — for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is one notch below the Supreme Court and often has the final word on matters of executive authority.” [TPM]

Why? Because the Republicans argue that the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has too many judges assigned to it, and therefore — in terms that are Orwellian in their essence — to appoint new members to fill vacancies is to “pack the court,” a blatant attempt to obfuscate the issues by comparing the appointment of judges to fill vacancies is equatable to FDR’s proposal to add members to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Numbers Game

At the heart of the current controversy is the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals which has 11 judgeships, and three vacancies.  Granting that the D.C. Court of Appeals has the lightest workload in the circuit system, with 1189 appeals filed in 2011 and 1,200 filed in 2012 [UScourts pdf], the number of judges in itself doesn’t make the case for a reduction in the number of judges when it is noticed that there are 1,287 cases pending from 2011 and another 1,369 from 2012.   Indeed, the number of appeals filed and the number of cases pending could be used to support the contention that the appointment of more judges would be helpful to deal with the backlog.

In fact, the 9th Circuit, which has the largest number of cases and judges (3.9% increase in cases filed 2011-2012), has two vacancies and has been slogging along, able to reduce its pending cases by only -0.1%.  [UScourts pdf]

The situation at present is that there are 874 federal judges, and there are 91 vacancies (17 circuit courts of appeal & 74 district courts). Worse still there are 37 instances defined by the U.S. Courts to be “judicial emergencies.”  A judicial emergency is defined as:

Circuit Court  any vacancy in a court of appeals where adjusted filings per panel are in excess of 700;  OR any vacancy in existence more than 18 months where adjusted filings are between 500 to 700 per panel.
District Court any vacancy where weighted filings are in excess of 600 per judgeship; OR any vacancy in existence more than 18 months where weighted filings are between 430 to 600 per judgeship; OR any court with more than one authorized judgeship and only one active judge.

Not to put too fine a point to it, but if U.S. citizens have cases before their federal courts they are in some danger of being in the “Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied” category as they wait for openings in dockets for the adjudication of their cases where there is a Judicial Emergency.  Even in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in which there are three vacancies and two nominations, the lack of three judges means slower decisions — delayed is, in essence, denied.

Judicial Appointments by Administration

A look at the chart above lends credence to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) comments on the matter:

Senate Republicans were happy to confirm judges to the D.C. Circuit when Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush were in office. But now that a Democrat serves in the White House, Republicans want to eliminate the remaining three vacant D.C. Circuit Court seats, although the court’s workload has actually grown since President Bush was in office,” he said. “Republicans are using convenient but flawed political arguments to hamstring this vital court and deny highly qualified nominees like Ms. Millett a fair up-or-down vote.” [TPM]

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Filed under Judicial, Politics, Republicans

Heller’s Obstructionism On Full Display

Heller Yellow StripePerhaps the most under-reported scandalous behavior in Washington, D.C. is the continual obstruction of Presidential nominations to fill vacancies in administrative and judicial posts, and Nevada junior Senator Dean Heller has been right in the middle of it.

First, he opposed the nomination of Elissa Cadish, refusing to sign the paperwork necessary for her candidacy as a judicial nominee to come before the Senate Judiciary Committee, because he was miffed by her position on guns.  Now, he’s opposing the nomination of Jennifer Dorsey because her previous law firm made a major donation to the PAC associated with Senator Harry Reid. [LVSun]

Surprise, surprise … law firms make significant political donations.  Who would have thought it?

“Nevada Sen. Dean Heller announced via statement Thursday that he would not be supporting Dorsey’s nomination because he was concerned about the propriety of large financial contributions Dorsey and her law firm — Kent, Jones & Coulthard — made to Sen. Harry Reid campaign and political action committees as he was considering recommending her to Obama for the position.” [LVSun]

That’s it?  No mention of her qualifications? Her previous legal work?  Not even a bit of sugar coating to make his opposition seem more professional, more considered?  Just pure good old fashioned unalloyed partisanship?  It doesn’t get more shallow than this.

Of course, Senator Heller’s previous press release wasn’t any more indicative of critical thinking.  His solution to the problem of interpreting the meaning of Internal Revenue Service regulations regarding the applications for 501(c)4 tax exempt status seems not to be the province of Congress to make clear and explicit statutes on what constitutes “social welfare” and if this should be the primary or the exclusive purpose of an applicant organization.

Nor, does Senator Heller propose that we restore the positions at the IRS, at least the 42 cut from the tax exemption department which took those ill advised shortcuts to process a 56% increase in the number of applications,  a staffing shortage which led to the creation of the shortcuts in the first place.  Believe it or not, Senator Heller’s “solution” is to exacerbate the problem.

“The President’s budget requested that about $440 million be diverted to the IRS for the purpose of enforcing the President’s healthcare law. Considering the IRS is under increasing scrutiny for targeting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, Heller introduced legislation to stop additional funding.”  [Heller]

Jolly, so budget cuts and staff reductions created problems for the Cincinnati office of the IRS in terms of determining the tax exempt status of 501(c)4 applicants, and now Senator Heller is promoting the idea that the IRS should be restricted in how it enforces health care insurance reform statutes?

This is simply classic Republican obstructionism at its finest.  The formula is predictable and thoroughly tested: Decry the incompetence of government, then cut funding and staffing levels for government agencies. When the agencies cannot function properly because of the funding and staffing cuts, decry the incompetence of government… lather…rinse…repeat.

Senator Heller’s machinations might be interesting, or at least amusing, if they were at least a tad bit unusual.  They aren’t.  He gives every appearance of spending the last week in full Obstruction and Blatant Partisanship Mode.   His fixation on the outward attributes of governmental operations makes Shallow Hal look like an astute and circumspect observer of human personality.

Meanwhile, the Federal District Courts in Nevada remain seriously understaffed.  How many more Nevada citizens and businesses must wait for their day in court before Senator Heller can find his  “perfect” nominee for an appointment to the bench?

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Filed under Heller, Politics

The Best and the Brightest

Best line of the morning: “Heller wooing Hispanics is a little like President Barack Obama showing up at retreat of the Koch family, the now-famous billionaire brothers who loathe the president’s policies.”  [LV Sun]

Best statement on the Dream Act: Senator Harry Reid –  “Mitt Romney’s out-of-touch statements about the DREAM Act are a slap in the face to Nevada’s Hispanic community. To those who would earn legal status by risking their lives to serve our country in uniform or attending college so that they can better contribute to the United States, this commonsense legislation is anything but a ‘handout’. It shocks me that more Republicans are not demanding an apology for this extreme position about a proposal that was originally co-authored by a Republican.” [NRDC] Note: appointed Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) opposes the DREAM Act.

Best Chart of the DayTalking Points Memo – “How the Debt Limit Fight Hurt the Economy.”  A modified version of the chart from the Federal Reserve Board of Governors (January 2012):

Between the two versions of essentially the same general category of economic information it isn’t too difficult to discern that all the hyperbole about the Debt Ceiling tended to depress consumer confidence and business enthusiasm for positive economic gains.

Best Quick Link of the Day:  Library of Congress, alphabetical listing of bills introduced in the 112th Congress.   Abortion (49), Birth Control (1), Family Planning and Birth Control (28), Firearms and Explosives (81), Marriage and Family Status (44), Oil and Gas (261), Separation, Divorce, Custody, Support (15), Terrorism (233).  So far…

Best Report Not Enough People Are Going To Read:  American Society of Civil Engineers, (pdf) “Water Report: Executive Summary – Failure To Act.”   By 2020 we will have a $84.4 billion gap between what we’re spending and what we need to spend on water resource infrastructure.

Best Place To Keep Track of Judicial Nominations:  American Constitution Society, “JudicialNominations.Org.”   Click here for the (pdf) update on judicial nominations as of January 2012.

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Filed under 2012 election, Heller, Immigration, Infrastructure, Judicial, Nevada politics, Reid